In 2007, Universal Studios produced a movie entitled “American Gangster”. Set in the late 1960’s & starring famed actor Denzel Washington, the film provides the viewer with a lens into the life, rise & fall of Harlem drug kingpin, Frank Lucas. There is a scene in the movie where Frank Lucas (Washington) is in a nightclub having a conversation with fellow drug lord Nicky Barnes (played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.) concerning the purchase and redistribution of the drug Frank sells: Blue Magic. Nicky has been purchasing Blue Magic from Frank, diluting it with other chemicals to decrease its potency, and selling it under the same name. Frank meets with Nicky to attempt to explain that when you sell a watered down product using the same brand name, you, inevitably, diminish the value of the name.
I think about Lucas’ principle with our recent Presidential election now behind us and the impending presidency of Donald Trump in front of us. As voting has now ceased, demographic statistics are now being released relating to the votes that were cast. Traditionally, this data is released to offer perspective into the science behind our electoral process. But, in this particular election, where the prevailing sentiment is one of discontent, many (at least, in the public square) are looking for some understanding as to how this actually happened. Figures from the election show that 80 percent (4 out of 5) White Evangelicals/Christians cast their vote for Donald Trump, a candidate whose record of racial discrimination, misogyny, cruelty and demagoguery have not only been on display on the campaign trail, but have also followed him for more than twenty years.
The part of that statistic that is the most concerning to me is not “white” part (though I do think that some healthy conversation ought be had regarding the racial implications that we saw play out so heavily in this election and what that, in turn, affirms about the social landscape of this nation) but the “Christian”part.
The endorsement of a candidate who willfully, defiantly even, decides to embody such vitriol is bad enough. But, for those who choose the coinage “Christian” as their self-identifier to show up in drones to lift that candidate to the highest office in the land is deeply disturbing. Christians who used their relationship with Jesus as a justifier to cast a vote for Trump (or engage in other acts contrary to the life model Jesus lived for us while on Earth) misrepresent our Lord and simultaneously complicate an already difficult mission of spreading the Gospel all over the world. This particular perversion of our Savior says to the world that Jesus is only good enough to be at the center of a contested chronicle and not strong enough to stand and have something to say on social issues. Our support of that which our God stands firmly against offers the world a watered down brand of Christianity and, inevitably diminishes the value of the Name.
Our relationship to God through Jesus Christ, ought to be more than a moniker that gives us access and acceptablity in the marketplace. Being a Christian ought to prompt us to constantly evolve and evaluate who we are; it ought challenge us and, ultimately prompt us to correct ourselves. As followers of Jesus engaged in the American voting process, as Christians, perhaps the thought shouldn’t have been “I’m voting for ______ in the name of Jesus” as much as it should have been “Who would Jesus have cast a vote for”?
If those who espouse theology connected to Jesus Christ are able to drop the conviction of that commitment in the face of our earthly biases, we stain the sacredness of our Savior and transform our faith into nothing more than a cult of convenience. When we preach and propagandize submission to God’s Will yet work towards the fulfillment our own will, we give the impression that Jesus is only as good as the worst in us as opposed to the catalyst for the best in us.
In the nightclub, Nicky tells Frank that when he owns something, he can do whatever he wants to with it. Frank doesn’t dispute Nicky’s ownership of what he has claimed as his own. Frank desperately tries to get Nicky to appreciate the value in what he has by telling him that this is so good that you don’t have to do anything to it; Frank tells him the product “is good enough the way it is”. The pure, true image of the Son of God (not only loving and compassionate but also inclusive, radical, controversial, unconventional, bold, and unafraid to challenge the establishment), is cogent enough to “draw all men unto Him”. Jesus is good enough the way He is.
We need to be more careful and protective of the name we’ve decided to adopt; more discerning of the decisions we make in Jesus’ name. We must be careful not to commit acts of infringement against the name of Jesus.
Damage was done to the reputation of our Redeemer on Election night. May we, as daughters & sons of God be both prayerful and careful what we do. For when we act, we do so on Your behalf. Lord, forgive us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
-The woman on TV is attempting to sell me winter coat with electric heaters into the lining. This idea is absolutely ridiculous. I truly don’t know what is greater: the foolishness of this fashion fire hazard or the fact that I have yet to change the channel…
-It is the morning before Election Day in this country and I have mutual concern about the two major party candidates, as well as the Libertarian candidates. It is sad that we exist in a reality where the most sensible candidate requires popularity in order to succeed in the polls and the least sensible candidate has a puncher’s chance of winning the White House purely based on popularity. If anything good has come from the circus that political discourse in this country has devolved into, it is that through all of the nominees, we have a vanity mirror’s view of where our country is and how far we have to go.
-I think that, as it relates to my people, the simplest way that we can begin to motivate the change we want to see around us is by boycotting any type of media that objectifies our women, criminalizes our men, and marginalizes us in front of our children. People can create whatever they want to, I just think we have to love ourselves enough not to consume it.
-God’s church, as a whole, is going to have to do some serious rethinking as it relates to the way we do ministry. There are those who are open to an introduction to Jesus through us, that we have unintentionally alienated in the name of loyalty to our doctrine. Could it be that there are so man who miss the message of Jesus because we are unwilling to adjust our approach?
-$129.99, huh? Thats not a bad price for coat. I wonder what it is made of…
-If no one was able to make any money for creating Rap/Hip Hop music, I wonder if people would still do it? Even deeper, what does it say about the culture if the answer is “no”? Are people really doing it “for Hip Hop” anymore?
-Lil Wayne’s recent comments about the Black Lives Matter movement (and his assertion that Black life in this country is obviously valuable) make me feel like the prophet Amos talking to the nation of Israel. I feel deeply led to caution my brother not to become at ease in his own, personal Zion while inviting him to look at the Lower Ninth Ward or the Calliope and see if they are better off than where he is.
-Whatever it is that someone chooses to believe, one’s theology ought to be solid enough to endure respectable critique while simultaneously flexible enough to evolve. What we believe ought to have moments where its suggestions strain the security of our suppositions.
-Polyurethane?? I wonder if there is a warranty on this coat? Like, if I burst into flames on the sidewalk, do I get my money back after I get out of the hospital?. What am I saying??….wake up, Derrick! Its time to go back to sleep. I really need to turn this off. But the remote is on the other side of the room. I guess for things to change, I’m going to have to move from where I’m at…man, that’s inconvenient….I guess I should figure out which means more to me: comfort or change? Hey!….*yawn*….maybe in order for things…..*stretch*….we need to move….from where we are at….I wonder which means more to my people…..comfort….*yawn*…..or change….zzzzz